The skies of Israel lit up overnight as missiles flared upwards to intercept incoming rockets from the Gaza Strip.
Explosions rippled through the troubled Middle East region as Palestinian liberation group Hamas attempted to exact revenge for Israel’s killing of one of its leaders at the weekend.
In response, Israeli air strikes in Gaza have so far killed three Palestinians and destroyed a Hamas TV building after a barrage of rocket fire from the enclave, as renewed violence threatened to derail efforts to end months of unrest.
Israel’s military said it had struck more than 70 militant sites in response to over 300 rockets fired from the Hamas-run territory.
Officials say missile defences had intercepted dozens of the rockets from Gaza and most others fell in open areas, though some hit houses and other civilian structures.
Medics reported around 20 Israelis were wounded.
The army said an Israeli bus was hit by an antitank missile from the Gaza Strip, causing several injuries. A soldier was severely wounded, it said.
Palestinian militant groups in Gaza, including Hamas, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire and the missile attack on the bus, which they said was being used by Israeli soldiers.
Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said he could not yet provide further details on the bus or its passengers.
Israeli media is reporting the death of two civilians when a rocket hit a building in Ashkelon.
Meanwhile, Gaza’s health ministry says three Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes and nine wounded. Militant group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said two of those killed were its members, while the third was from Islamic Jihad’s armed wing.
The building for Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV was destroyed in an Israeli strike after a series of warning shots, with Israel’s army saying the station “contributes to Hamas’s military actions”.
No injuries were reported and workers were believed to have evacuated after the warning shots.
A former hotel in Gaza City used by Hamas as an internal security office was also hit in an Israeli strike, AFP journalists reported.
Gaza militants threatened another harsh response after the strike on the TV building and, according to police, more rockets hit in the Israeli city of Ashkelon.
Hamas said the initial rocket fire was in revenge for the deadly Israeli operation late on Sunday.
A clash erupted during the covert operation in the Gaza Strip that killed seven Palestinian militants, including a local commander for Hamas’s armed wing, as well as an Israeli army officer.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a trip to Paris and rushed home as tensions rose, and on Monday convened a meeting of security chiefs.